PremiseEditAi Yori Aoshi is a manga series that also produced an anime, a romance-based so-called 'harem' manga that centers around the lives of two young lovers who must overcome restrictions and obstacles simply to live their own lives and be nearer to each other. Friends join them along the way, but for the most part these friends know nothing of their secretly-kept engagement. The title translates as 'Bluer Than Indigo', a concept by which a student exceeds the master. It is a somewhat mature manga with strong instances of fanservice.
On his own in a lonely world, former heir Hanabishi Kaoru has severed all ties with his wealthy family. Struggling between work and school, Kaoru encounters an exquisite young woman in a kimono, lost and looking for someone, until he realizes that it is he himself she is looking for. The girl, Sakuruba Aoi, was betrothed to Kaoru at a young age, so as to unite their wealthy and powerful families. As Kaoru's leaving his family ended the engagement, Aoi came to seek him out and learn if this was somehow her fault. Kaoru finds himself falling in love with this seemingly fragile young woman who is still yet powerful in her determination. Making a deal that buys them some very grudging time from Aoi's parents, the two take over a large property with a mansion and a guest house where Kaoru stays, and both are under strict agreement to tell no one of their engagement. This starts to prove difficult as friends of Kaoru's from college move in, thinking the home is a boarding house, and a few of them have designs on Kaoru as well. The fun, friendship and humorously awkward sexual situations make life interesting, if sometimes infuriating for Aoi and Kaoru, and are always tempered by the pleadings of the Sakurabas that Kaoru rejoin his family, and the implication that they can pull the rug out from under all of them at any time.
Hanabishi Kaoru - As a young boy, Kaoru was given up by his mother, who was pressured to do so by his paternal grandfather, the ruthless head of the Hanabishi Zaibatsu. When Kaoru held on to the memory of his mother, the grandfather began a series of savage beatings every time his spirit showed some sign of defiance. Despite friendships and what happiness he could find, Kaoru began secretly stashing away money and left the family behind, taking work in order to have somewhere to live while attending college. His reunion with Aoi comes with conditions, the harshest of which is the demand that he rejoin his family, something he will not do even for Aoi, whom he adores, and whose presence lessens the pain of his past and his loneliness.
Sakuruba Aoi - Aoi is the very embodiment of the often misunderstood term 'Yamato Nadeshiko', a term used to describe the perfect ideal Japanese woman. This kind of woman is seen as a submissive empty shell whose only thought is to please her husband. But a warning comes to those who know such a lady : There Is Steel Beneath Those Long Sleeves. Aoi may seem submissive, and her selfless devotion to Kaoru is extraordinary and can even be startling. But at her core is a young woman who knows what she wants and will not be put off from it, even if it means doing the unthinkable and going against her family's current demands. Her hidden strength and family issues aside, Aoi is a source of joy and light to all, a sister to other women, even when they themselves are pursuing Kaoru.
Kagurazaki Miyabi - Servant to the Sakurubas and bodyguard to Aoi, not to mention serving as an older sister to the unworldly Aoi as well. At first opposed to her relationship with Kaoru, she becomes a subtle advocate for it when she realizes that he, like herself, would sooner hurt himself than allow any harm to come to Aoi. That said, she is loyal to the Sakurubas and enforces the terms of their agreement, this while acting as manager to the boarding house that arises from keeping the secret. Miyabi however realizes most of all that the patience of her employers is not infinite; it falls to her to do the impossible and get Kaoru to rejoin his family.
Tina Foster - A boisterous American girl who has lived most of her life in Japan but is still just American enough to always feel like a foreigner. One of the things that makes her feel at home is Kaoru, whose friendship leads to love on her part, not realizing Kaoru is now spoken for. They met in college, and it is Tina who starts the ball rolling by asking to live at the 'boarding house'. She is also good friends with Aoi, and this does not change when she begins to get a clue about Aoi and Kaoru liking each other. Loud and exuberant, she seems Aoi's opposite but in fact admires Aoi, the perfect Japanese woman she can never be. Tina helps whoever and however she can, and often whether they want her help or not.
Minazuki Taeko - Another friend of Kaoru's from college, Taeko is clumsy, awkward and lacking all confidence. Given a chance as a maid at the manor house, she begins to develop confidence, and turns to an at first annoyed Miyabi as a mentor. Taeko eventually adopts a ferret named Uzume who was bought by Tina. Like herself, Miyabi is at first annoyed by and then finds the pet indispensible.
Miyuki Mayu - Another childhood friend of Kaoru's; his kindness during her parents' frequent absences made life bearable. Despite her pursuit of Kaoru, she gets along fine with Aoi--Tina Foster, though, she clashes with, till their clashes become a relationship unto itself. Wealthy and somewhat snobbish, she has a desire to be around and share with other people. All that said, Mayu can be a bit of a snob and boor, and will not graciously take no for an answer.
Minazuki Chika - Taeko's energetic younger cousin who has a crush on Kaoru and who idolizes Aoi. Her antics, including being caught by accident in various levels of undress by Kaoru, show an interesting side to the series. Unlike many an ani-manga hero, Kaoru will be neither attacked for seeing his housemates naked nor do they use this as an excuse for seduction. The tight quarters are accepted as being a danger to modesty, especially for Chika and the friends she gets once she moves into the boarding house and attends a local school. Chika is well liked in the household, and even Mayu shows less acrimony, possibly because Chika is too young to act as a perceived rval for Kaoru. Chika has two friends, Chizuru and Natsuki, who attend her school and get involved with her 'oops' moments with Kaoru, who they think is her boyfriend.
Uzume - A pet ferret bought by Tina and at first opposed strongly by Miyabi, who eventually comes to adore him. Uzume is sweet and very playful, and tends to get into everything in its questing curiosity. He lives quite a long time for a ferret, and is still around during the series' epilogue, set four years after the roughly two years the series takes place in.
Endings - ( Full Spoilers )Edit
In both the manga series and the twenty-six episode anime, Kaoru's ultimate refusal to rejoin his abusive family drives Aoi's father to attempt to marry her off to someone else. With the aid of his housemates and even Miyabi, Kaoru frees Aoi from this and marries her at last. The manga adds one more twist : Kaoru gains a rival for Aoi's hand in the person of his bitter half-brother, also named Kaoru Hanabishi, who did not become even considered as heir till the main Kaoru had left. To ensure family peace, Kaoru surrenders all rights to the company to his half-brother and leaves with Aoi. They both give up their wealthy families (although it is believed that Aoi's mother is glad because her once-fragile daughter is showing strength) and take the family name of Honjou, the name of Kaoru's late mother. Some time later, Tina visits each of her friends, seeing Chika and the others in high school, Taeko now assistant to Miyabi, who has been formally adopted by the Sakurubas, Mayu still a brat and still hitting on the very married Kaoru (with no success). Aoi and Kaoru work hard in their lives, and still don't see each other as much as they'd like, but now their love is out in the open and something they can celebrate.
The anime does have fanservice, but this is especially strong in the manga, at times extending even to younger characters.